FOCUS: THE BATTLES FOR LONDON: Mayors on their marks, as architects carve up the city

Richard Rogers and Norman Foster: rivals and lords of all they survey

ardly a week goes by without one of Norman Foster's architectural designs making the news. Last week it was the new Wembley stadium; before that his priapic proposal for a 590ft "erotic gherkin" in the City; then there were his revised proposals for the Greater London Authority headquarters at Tower Bridge. From Brentford to Greenwich he appears to be rebuilding London single-handedly. And that isn't counting the office blocks in between.

Has any single architect had such an impact on London since John Nash and Thomas Cubitt built their terraces? If it is not Foster - now Lord Foster - then it is Lord Rogers who could take on this mantle. New Labour's favourite peer has bagged the big jobs such as the Millennium Dome. His iconic Lloyd's of London building has been followed by Lloyd's Register of Shipping and a building for Daiwa. If Heathrow gets a fifth terminal he will build it.

Foster's work has a classical purity, while Rogers' is more romantically expressionist. There is evident rivalry, but is the competition between them personal too? "Whenever I have seen them together they get on and I can't think of them ever commenting on other architects' work," said David Rock, former president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, who knows both men. "They are superstars operating in their own firmaments. But one of the great things about architecture over the past decade is the number of practices off the top at the moment but which will be head of the class tomorrow."

These include Chris Wilkinson (Stratford station and the Science Museum galleries), and Rick Mather (the new South Bank master-planner and architect remodelling the National Maritime Museum, the Dulwich Picture Gallery and the Wallace Collection), as well as established acts such as Sir Michael Hopkins (Portcullis House) and Sir Nicholas Grimshaw (Waterloo's Eurostar terminal). Beyond them are even more young lions.

If Foster and Rogers prevail, Rock argues, it is because they represent a safe pair of hands. It takes millions of pounds to get a project such as Foster's gherkin off the ground. It is a brave client who will appoint an architect who doesn't possess a good track record. "People such as Foster and Rogers are the beneficiaries, and the young lions go hungry," he says.

Rogers, meanwhile, is playing the long game, devoting much of his time to New Labour. He has spent the past year chairing the Government's urban task force, looking at the future of our cities. And it is he, rather than Foster, who may be remembered as the architect who shaped London in the 21st century.

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